This column is about Dr. Layne Allen Longfellow, who certainly deserves a little love and respect from his hometown of Jackson. I will concede that most local residents of the younger and middle generations have probably never heard of him. After all, he left town after graduating from Jackson High School in 1955 and he proceeded to build his illustrious and versatile career doing many different great things, but all far away from his hometown. 
However, he finally came home for good last week after his death at the age of 81. It was his wish to be buried in Jackson’s Fairmount Cemetery, next to the graves of his parents, Hershel and Opal Longfellow. Hershel owned and operated the Longfellow’s Shell Service station at the corner of West Main and Bridge streets, which is now the site of Poor Boys Tires. A local memorial program was conducted on Monday, Jan. 21 at the Mayhew-Brown Funeral Home in Jackson which appropriately featured some recordings of Layne’s speeches. Two of his old JHS buddies, Fielding Massie and David Warner, each took the opportunity to offer some of their personal memories.
I’m willing to wager that Layne Longfellow was probably one of the most talented and accomplished men to ever come out of Jackson County. His obituary described him as an educator, writer, humorist, musician, composer and world traveler, but that was only scratching the surface of the start of it. He could seemingly do about anything -- and could look and sound exceedingly good while doing it.
Even in his teenage years, it was apparent that Layne was going places – literally and figuratively. 
He was handsome, well-spoken, highly intelligent, motivated and driven to succeed. If the members of the Class of 1955 had one of those “most likely” votes, Layne would surely have won the “Most Likely to Succeed” title. Seemingly, he had everything going for him.
Layne matriculated to nearby Ohio University in Athens where he graduated Magna Cum Laude and later earned a doctorate at the University of Michigan in Experimental Psychology. He also later earned a number of post-doctoral fellowships, most notably a National Institute of Mental Health award to work with Dr. Carl Rogers, one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research.
When it was all said and done, Longfellow’s professional résumé was truly something to behold. He was a college instructor in Oregon, he was the Academic Vice President of Prescott College in Arizona and was the director of Seminars for Executives at the renowned Menniger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas. 
He once produced an award-winning television documentary about the experience of leading a group of executives on a mountain-climbing expedition in the Canadian Rockies.
It was his work at the Menninger Foundation which served as a springboard for his truly illustrious career as a professional speaker and seminar leader. In 1978, Longfellow established his own company, Lecture Theater, Inc., which was a forum for the presentation of provocative issues while employing such aids as half-spoken words, songs, humor, piano music, and photographs. 
Through his company, he presented more than 2,000 multi-media speeches and seminars to audiences and organizations, internationally as well as nationally. His standing among his peers was such that he was elected to the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame in 1985 before he had even reached the age of 50. His colleagues in the Association later awarded him with the rare and highly prized title of “Legendary Speaker.” 
The charismatic and always informed Longfellow was in great demand all over the U.S. as a speaker at seminars, business meetings, conventions and many other functions. His blend of humor, music, poetry, philosophy, and storytelling employed in multi-media presentations were both entertaining and illuminating and connected with all types of audiences. He was one of the few speakers who was booked multiple times for the national meetings of the famed Million Dollar Round Table.
In 2007, the 200th anniversary of the birth of the famous American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, prompted Layne to embrace and promote the legacy of his namesake. 
Layne served as the Longfellow Poetry Ambassador for the Friends of Longfellow National Historic Association and served as the host at the poet’s 200th birthday celebration. He followed that up with a reading of Longfellow’s poetry at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
I was fortunate enough to know Longfellow personally; a lot less than some of his Jackson contemporaries, but I viewed him as a vibrant and congenial man who embraced life and learning and valued his friendships and relationships. Although he had no great reason to visit here after the death of his parents and no other remaining family members, I know that he never forgot Jackson and valued his remaining hometown connections. 
I also know he considered it a great honor when he was asked to speak for the Class of 1955 at the 2005 program of the Jackson High School Alumni Association. He thought enough of that speech to post it on his professional website, entitling it as “The Best Class Reunion Speech Ever.” 
Here are a few of examples of Longfellow’s humor and wisdom, spoken to his gathered classmates:
-- "Think about this. In 50 years, this room is going to be filled with old ladies with tattoos.”
-- “After the age of 50, you get the face you deserve. After the age of 60, you get the life you deserve. Aging does not change you, it distills you.”
And a personal favorite:
-- “Always remember… No one will ever know us like we know each other.” [Paraphrased.]
And prior to his passing, he had requested that memorial contributions be made to the Jackson High School Alumni Association.
Rest in peace, friend.